By Pauline Stewart
The album, called South Highway ‘22, which featured six tracks of original songs of the MBAS music students, was very successfully released at a concert at the Monkey House Theatre last Thursday, 29 September.
There was a full audience from the community - students, parents, friends, grandparents and interested musicians crowded in to the Monkey House Theatre in Coghill Lane, Whitianga.
Dave Rhodes Productions recorded the songs and he joined Dave Mulholland, Director of Music at MBAS, in nurturing the students and the process with their compositions, which were totally original – lyrics, tunes and instrumental arrangements. The recordings were totally the students - their voices and they played all the instruments recorded on the tracks.
It was an alcohol-free event and entry was only a gold coin donation. How they launched the album at the concert was by alternating playing one of the tracks for everyone to listen to and then one of the student composers would perform their song or they could present another song of their choice. Many had composed more than what their one song on the EP and some of the students performed live two songs. There were soloists, duos and three- and four-piece bands, and range of styles to say the least. This opportunity for the students and also for the community to enjoy and appreciate, was made possible thanks to a successful grant application to Creatives in Schools which is overseen by the Ministry of Education.
Brooke Louden performed one of her compositions, very soulful, called ‘Trying to make me go to Rehab” addressing the issues of the pain of addiction in families and coping in our society. A particular track that struck a chord with me was ‘Dear Jenny’ composed and performed by Francie Lingard. This entered the world of a loving husband knowing the love of his life has declined in memory and function, but he can only remember how she was - beautiful and skilled and totally with him. A second song, which was not one of her own compositions, was Chuckie’s in Love and Awa Illingworth, pictured, accompanied Francie on lead guitar. The band, Habitless, performed two songs, one from the EP. Sam led the vocals, with Finn on the drums, River on the guitar, and Ryan on the bass. It was a two-hour concert with about 12 presentations.
Every recording of music when it is more than one track, requires extensive sound engineering and also studio production. I talked with one student< Charli McDougall, who was very involved in the EP project but not on the stage performing but, in the background, at the sound desk, learning the art of mixing the music tracks. Charli described the experience as “absolutely incredible”. She says, “It was amazing to have Dave Rhodes come and teach us. He is not a teacher. He is a sound engineer and producer, so he just focused on helping us learn the tasks that had to be done. His knowledge and the way he engaged us in learning about production and recording was very mind expanding. He was committed to share what it took to record successfully - to make a good song sound its best. He personally helped me to begin mixing the sounds and organising what it takes to work in the studio. He was not shy about telling you when something sounded crappy. He was real. Sometimes a teacher might encourage you by saying, “you are doing well sweetie”, but at our age, we need to grow beyond that and it’s not helpful for our future. Dave did not hand out compliments unless it was the truth and kept pushing for a better outcome. We really were fortunate to have this experience.”
I asked Charli about her future plans. She beamed, “I have won a place at Wintec School of Performing Arts. It’s a three-year degree. I’m excited but it’s also scary. This recent experience has confirmed my commitment to learn how to produce, direct and organise in the field of performing arts.”
Monkey House Theatre is becoming a home for the performing arts where all ages, particularly young people can try their hand at learning about production onstage and music in all its variety. In Molly and Kaspur Franke, we have in Mercury Bay, two very skilled and experienced facilitators in production and performance.
The album is readily available through Dave Rhodes Productions.